Podcast 22: How your website sells

Paul Boag

Whatever your website is about, it has to sell something. From selling an idea to a product or service, every site has its place in the sales process. This podcast looks at what that process is and how your website plays its part.

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News and stuff

This week we look at the new beta of Internet Explorer 7 as well as correcting a heap load of errors we have made in previous podcasts! However, most importantly we tell you about the geek dinner being held in honour of boagworld.com.

For more about the geek dinner check out my post

Win a ticket to SXSW by visiting the geek dinner website

Technobuster: Validation

This week’s technobuster section looks at Validation. What is it, why bother and how it work?

Read our validation post for more details

Main Feature: How your website sells

As I said at the start of this post, every website is selling something. Even the most dreary public sector site is trying to convince somebody of something (selling an idea). In many ways most of life is about sales, we are always trying to get people to see our point of view, to do something we want them to do. Unattractive though it is, sales are the cornerstone of web design and yet so often it is overlooked.

In this episode of boagworld, we explore some of the underlying sales principles that have been around for years and try applying them to the web.

Seven steps in sales

It is widely accepted that we pass through seven states in the purchasing process:

Satisfied ignorance

We do not believe we have a need and so are making no effort to fulfil that need. For example if you have just eaten, you feel no need to eat more.

Awareness of need

You are aware you have a need but have yet to take action. Gaining an awareness of your need can be triggered by external or internal sources. For example you may start to feel hungry (an internal trigger) or you might smell some food cooking, which makes you hungry (external).

You now actively look for a way to fulfil that need. Either we rely on internal sources such as a memory of a nice place to eat, or turn to external sources, such as a recommendation of a restaurant from a friend or family member.

Evaluation of alternatives

This search process will lead to a number of alternatives. Do I eat in a restaurant or cook something myself? We weigh the pros and cons of different options in order to settle on a decision.

Purchase decision

In this stage, we begin to look at the specifics of our decision. If we have decided to cook ourselves, we decide on what we will actually cook.


This is the actual decision to act. In some cases, this will be a literal purchase while in others it might be a call to action like volunteering ones time or changing ones point of view. Understanding what your site’s objective is (your purchase point) will help you position it in the sales process outlined here.

Post purchase

This is the point where we decide if the "purchase" was the right decision and whether we intend to stick with that decision.

Applying the sales process to your site

Understanding these steps are one thing, applying them to your site is quite another. It is especially difficult if your site is not an ecommerce site. The goal is to understand which of these steps you perceive your site addressing and which are to be dealt with by other methods (such as on or offline marketing). Before you can do that, you need to understand what your ultimate goal (sale) is.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Headscape is a web design company that offers a variety of services that are tailored to individual companies needs. They do not sell a tangible off the shelf product and so the web is not an appropriate environment to complete the transaction. Instead, the actual purchase point needs to be reached from negotiation between the client and the Headscape team. Therefore, the Headscape website is primarily geared around helping prospects with the "evaluation of alternative" stage. Anything before this point in the sales process and the prospect wouldn’t have found the Headscape site, anything after this point and we would prefer to be talking to them face to face.

Knowing where your website fits in helps determine factors like supporting marketing, content requirements and general design/functionality.

Useful questions

The following questions might help you to better understand the positioning of your site:

  • Does your site need to convince the user of their need before you present them with a solution? For example, the majority of visitors to the Headscape website already know they need a site and so this part of the process is unnecessary.
  • Does your site need to explain the solution to the users need before selling your particular proposition?
  • Does your site seek to maintain the prospects attention while they investigate alternative solutions?
  • Does your site manage the purchase process online?
  • Does your site provide post purchase support?
  • Are there methods in place to raise awareness of their need and help in finding your site?

I realise that this is a bit of a tricky concept to explain so have a listen to the podcast and if it still isn’t clear post a comment on this site.

Web resources: Choosing a colour palette

This week Paul and Marcus looked at three sites that help you choose the right colour palette for your site.

This site lets you view example sites based on palette to see how other designers have worked with certain colour combinations

Colour blender
This site allows you to quickly and easy try out different colour combinations together as well as making suggestions of colours that will work well.

Colour Schemer studio
The colour schemer studio is the best colour theory software around. This excellent little tool helps you create the perfect colour palette. A great buy!